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It's Time To Flip The Narrative On The New Orleans Pelicans
The days of sleeping on Anthony Davis and the Pels are over
by Kirby Garlitos | Apr 24, 2018
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It’s funny how a team’s narrative can change quickly in the NBA playoffs, but such is the nature when the lights are at their brightest. Narratives can flip, predictions can crumble, and everything we thought we knew and understood about the machinations of the playoffs can unravel before our eyes.

A little over a week ago, the New Orleans Pelicans barely registered a blip on the radar of conscientious NBA fans. Don’t even get started on the casual fans—the Pels might as well be some type of Louisiana barbecue sauce to them. Ahead of their first-round playoff matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, predictions were all over the place on how many games the series would last. Some thought it’d be a sweep, others thought it’d be a seven-game blood bath. But there was one common denominator about all those predictions: the Trail Blazers would win.

Whoops.

Four games in. Four games out. That’s how long the Blazers-Pelicans series lasted. Those who thought this series would be one-sided at least got that part right. To be fair, the supposed narrative supported it, too. The Blazers were thought to be two-way dominant: potent on offense, hellacious on defense. The numbers and advanced analytics supported it. You could even make a case for the “eye-test” considering that the team was led by two offensive dynamos, one of whom, Dame Lillard, built his entire brand and identity on a history of rising to the occasion when the stakes were at their highest.

Playoff time is supposed to be Dame Time, or at least it was until he and the rest of Rip City found themselves in the crosshairs of an all-around buzzsaw, a rejuvenated old head, and a destroyer of worlds masquerading as a 6’10” force of nature with a unibrow.

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The Pelicans—yes, the same Pelicans that never seemed to get out of its own way, the same Pelicans that lost DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles, the same Pelicans that features Anthony Davis, who has a litany of his own injury issues—not only beat Lillard and the Blazers, they pulled out a franchise-altering beatdown of a lifetime. It was the closest thing to a public undressing, displayed over four nights under the brightest of spotlights.

Portland never had a chance. Befitting its previous name—the team will always be the OG Hornets—the Pelicans swarmed Portland in ways we’ve never seen in the Lillard-CJ McCollum era. Dame himself admitted after Game 3 that he’s never seen a defense like the one he saw New Orleans play against him throughout the series. “This is a different coverage than any point in my career. It’s two and three layers of defense,” he said after the Pelicans dismantled the Blazers in Game 3, 119-102. “It’s tough to play against. It’s a challenge.”

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At the heart of that “challenge” is Jrue Holiday, who we all know now is a 6’4” version of Kobe Bryant. Okay, maybe not, but Holiday has been a complete revelation in this series to those who barely know him. Not only did he shut Lillard down throughout the whole series, he did so while averaging 27 points per page on 54 percent shooting in four games, including a Mamba-esque 41 points to close out the series.

If it’s not Holiday, it’s Nikola Mirotic, the sweet-shooting forward who erupted for 30 points in Game 3 on the back of a shooting masterpiece—12/15 from the field, including 4/6 from three—few people believed he had in him. It wasn’t just his shooting, either. The beardless sniper also averaged close to 10 rebounds, two steals, and three blocks in four games. Did you ever think Mirotic would be capable of these numbers?

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While we’re in the mood to ask (rhetorical) questions, here’s another one: is the Legend of Playoff Rondo real?

We may not have an answer to that until after he retires, but in the prism of this four-game series, Playoff Rondo wasn’t just real, he was a knife-wielding nightmare for the woe-be-gone Blazers. Forget about his stats for a second—dude averaged almost 13 assists in the four games—and focus on what made Rondo so crucial in the Portland series. Better yet, let Davis describe it for all of us. “He was up all night watching film,” Davis said about Rondo after Game 1. “He’s definitely mentally locked in. Even when (Portland) was calling plays out tonight, he was telling us what it was, before they even got a chance to run it.”

Speaking of which, how about Anthony Davis, huh? We all know what Davis is capable of. Time and again, he’s proven himself to be one of the Top 5 players in the NBA. He’s a galactic supernova in a universe of stars. Sure, that doesn’t make that much sense, but when has the Brow made any sense as a basketball player? He’s a 6’10” big with a limitless offensive game and dominant defensive instincts. The only negative spin people have thrown at him is his team’s lack of success, an argument that really is an unfair indictment of the Brow.

But none of that matters now. In leading the Pelicans to this trashing of the Blazers, the whole basketball world is now in full on red-alert for Anthony Davis. He may not get the publicity that some other household names get, but with him leading the Pelicans, he’s not going to need to draw attention for himself and his team anymore.

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All of that—and a lot more—is coming, which itself is funny because nobody dared to care as recently as a week ago.

Narratives, ladies and gentlemen. They change just as quickly as a public dismantling of a supposedly better team.

 

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